I wanted to get a shot of my brother-in-law walking his lovely daughter down the aisle at her wedding. Unfortunately, where I was seated didn’t give me much of an opportunity for a decent shot. My only hope was to lean back and take the shot as father and daughter reached the open space where the row of seats behind me met the aisle.
I got the picture. However, in doing so, I saw another all-too-familiar scene. Most of the occupants in the seats behind us had their smartphones up and recording the exciting event. Also, note that a gentleman also stood to take a photo. I had to capture the moment. And yes, I took the photo with my iPhone.
My friend innocently reminded me of something I had said to her that I had forgotten. Her timing couldn’t haven been better in repeating my words of advice.
She said I had told her always to keep looking up. That comment referenced finding birds and bird nests in her yard. When I heard my words played back to me, I realized their application ranged far beyond bird watching.
My mind flashed back to our snowbird weeks in northeastern Florida in the winter. We had rented a condo right on the Atlantic Ocean for a few weeks.
I often greeted the days from the balcony of our condo. One particular day stood out.
The sunrise was spectacular. The waves were gentle, peacefully hypnotic in their rhythmic rolling. Where the waves lapped at the gritty sand, shorebirds busily foraged for sustenance.
An orange sun danced on the ocean’s horizon, reflecting glorious beauty across the rolling waters and brilliantly painting the sky. Dolphins played and fed in the morning surf before it broke upon the beach.
A few folks were out and about, too. But many of them seemed disengaged from all the natural beauty around them. Their heads fixated down to their hand-held smartphones, unmindful of the golden sunrise, the unfolding nature, or the inspiring sea.
During our weeks-long stay, I saw this same scene repeated over and over again. You don’t have to be on the beach to see it either. In today’s technologically driven society, I’m sure you have encountered the same situations in your daily routines.
It’s easy to see this faulty waywardness in others. For me, it’s much harder to recognize my personal, self-absorbed participation in this 21st-century phenomenon.
If we’re honest with ourselves, all too often we fall into the same ill-mannered habit. We become so infatuated with our gizmos that we disregard all that’s happening around us, including those we love.
I know. My daughter took a photo of me with her phone, of course, sitting on a bench in front of an ice cream stand on a balmy summer evening. My baldness is prominent in the photo because I had my head down looking at the smartphone I held.
I felt guilty when I saw that photo. For the record, my daughter took it for the setting and color, not for my embarrassment. That was on my shoulders.
It’s a bit ironic, isn’t it? Sophisticated electronics designed to help us communicate much better and faster actually keep us from real interaction, like a casual conversation.
With constant, instantaneous access to information, much of it negative and harsh, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, disenchanted. We shouldn’t. No matter our individual situations, we each need to keep looking up, whether it’s for finding birds or keeping a positive attitude or noticing the events unfolding around us.
A restaurant’s entryway sign perfectly summed up the current social situation with a hand-printed message on their welcoming chalkboard. It read, “We do not have Wi-Fi. Talk to each other. Pretend it’s 1995.”
I immensely enjoyed that evening with my daughter visiting people in small towns where I had never been. We talked as we traveled, and I learned a lot, more than I did by scrolling my phone while we waited for our food.
The fearlessness of children today never ceases to amaze me, especially when it comes to using technology.
A friend on Facebook posted that her young son had purchased an upgrade for an application for her wireless phone. I marveled at the child’s fortitude, yet also wondered about the dangerous ramifications given that such a transaction could be that simple.
A few days later I heard a similar story on the radio. A woman’s young son purchased a $50,000 automobile by using her smartphone while the lady was driving her car. How could that kind of transaction so easily take place?
I admire the ability of children to grasp and use electronic technology as if it were innate. Our three-year old granddaughter, Maren, could teach me a thing or two about using the iPhone, iPad or any other device that begins with lower case “i.”
My wife once discovered Maren, then a mere two, under the covers in her parents’ bed nimbly using the iPad as if it were old hat. This is not a pronouncement on either her parents or Maren’s tenacity and dexterity. Rather, it is a singular example of how well young children adapt to all things technology.
I think that both a blessing and a curse. I admire their aptitude to use a wide variety of electronic devices. I am glad young people are not restrained by the anxiety that many my age and older seem to have towards fully embracing technology. They use it with ease. We complain that the buttons are too small.
However, that untamed acceptance of gaming, texting, movies on demand, live streaming and so much more at the touch of an app has its drawbacks. My Facebook friend can attest to that. In fact, several mothers shared stories of their own young children committing similar acts. And don’t forget the mother with the brand new car.
I find that both exciting and alarming. I am glad today’s young people so easily grasp the use of technology in today’s world. Technology really does put the world at our fingertips.
The world is growing smaller because of technology. Social media, tweeting and texting are the modern ways to communicate, including in third world countries. Even hungry children in poor, remote regions of the world know what is going on globally thanks to rapidly spreading technology.
The world is a scary place. If children can order items online or cars from a smartphone with the swipe of a finger or touch of an app, imagine the other possibilities that are out there. I like to think that most are good, expanding the youngsters’ horizons.
Unfortunately, some aren’t all that helpful, and perhaps are even harmful. The fearlessness of young children and their lack of life’s experiences make them vulnerable to the shysters of the world, and that’s not a good thing at all.
I would hate to see a family’s credit or reputation ruined because of some greedy corporation or individual taking advantage of an innocent, exploring mind. Worse still is the thought of even one child being naively duped.
I am not advocating prohibiting children from using today’s technology by any means. Children’s fearlessness toward technology should be metered with instruction, caution and supervision, applied appropriately for the age and situation.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers to my concerns. If I did, people would pay me big money for my solutions and I’d be rich. Maybe then I could hire my granddaughter to teach me how to use an iPhone.